Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pain Gain?

Pain itself is not the point. (Although in the largest, universal picture, who knows what creative good it might serve?) Pain motivates me to do work I would not otherwise attempt - the work of going deep, of being present to all my parts - even the most mangled or corrosive, of embracing all of myself with loving tenderness - with no demand to change or fix.

For most of us, the first response to pain is to close up, hunker down and grow an impenetrable shell. Only that never works. The pain persists and grows under our defenses. Sooner or later, it breaks out in new ways, often through physical disease.

Was I just lucky that my defenses were never all that impenetrable? That the pain broke through with such persistence that each strategy to cope by not feeling soon failed? Maybe my pain was just bad enough that I had no choice but to keep seeking. I don't know, but I feel lucky.

The practice of opening to and accepting all of yourself takes a lot of courage. Desperation for physical, emotional and relational relief has been the fuel my courage required.

I sought help and I found it - so many teachers, companions and guides. I have also been the teacher, companion or guide for others.

Because this work develops what Buddhists call a vulnerable heart - what the old, Christian monastics called humility. Once you have practiced loving acceptance of all of yourself - the fine, shiny bits and the jagged, gunky bits - it is not so hard to be open and present to others. That kind of nonjudgmental listening to others provides great healing that is badly needed in the world.

So the seemingly selfish pursuit of relief ends up serving everyone.

And that is the point - a point well worth any number of pain-filled, sleepless nights. I know. I have 40 odd years of 'em to my credit.

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